Although I’ve been walking around the beautiful city of Derry and have seen the famous “Derry City Walls”, I had yet to have a proper tour of the history behind it all. I was lucky enough to snag a spot on an AMAZING tour with the Rainbow Project (another volunteer agency I’ve been working with focusing on LGBT Youth in Northern Ireland FAST FACT: Did you know that up until only 30 years ago, it was still illegal to be openly Gay in public in Northern Ireland?)
The tour was so much more than I could have hoped for. It was named the Maidens‘ City: A Herstory of the Walled City. This was an exciting walking tour of Derry-Londonderry’s historic walls which explores the largely hidden history of women in the city. It was preformed by three different actresses and lasted approximately two hours (I wish it lasted longer!) I laughed during the tour and at points I even teared up. It began at the Guildhall, where local Suffragettes met one hundred years ago.
A little about the Derry City Walls: These are massive city walls on the west bank of the River Foyle. They were built between 1614-1619 and are almost perfectly still preserved today.
The entire cost of the building was met by the Irish Society, whose duty it was (under the Royal Charter of King James) to build and maintain the Derry Walls to help control the local Irish Rebels. Despite sieges in 1641, 1649 and the Great Seige of 1689, Derry Walls were never breached, proof indeed of their careful planning and excellent construction, and the reason for the title “The Maiden City”.
Some important women I learned about?
Emmeline Pankhurst: British political activities and leader of the British suffragette movement that helped women win the right to vote. In 1898 she founded the Womens Social and Political Union which was an all women suffrage advocacy organization dedicated to “deeds not word”
Cecily Jackson: A women who was burned at the stake for infanticide in 1729.
Cathy Harkin: Cathy worked for many years in a shirt factory in Derry. She was involved in the Derry Labour Party for many years and was in the Derry Housing Actin committee which was linked to the start of the Civil Rights Movement. Her part in Women’s Aid however, is what she would go down in history for. Any women who came to her for help she was not only a helper, but a friend.
Eleanor Marx: Daughter of Karl Marx, worked with the Women’s Trade Union League, part of the Social Democratic Federation and later on the Socialist LEague(which she helped co-found). She regularly wrote a column called “REcord of the Revolutionary International Movement” for the Socialists League.
Amelia Earhart: Okay yes, I already knew who Amelia Earhart was (I can see my dad rolling his eyes saying, “Really Hillary? You’re just learning about Amelia Earhart? :heavy sigh::) However, I just wanted to point out (and since she was one of the actresses in our tour) not only was she a member of the NAtional Woman’s Party and an early support of the Equal Rights amendment, some also say she put Northern Ireland on the map. She set off from Newfoundland in May of 1932 aiming for her plane to hit Paris, instead, she landed on a field in Derry.
This was the type of tour where I didn’t even bring my camera, I really wanted to learn the history of this beautiful place (but for those of you who know me, I will spend an entire day taking pictures and putting them on this blog 🙂 ) More on the history of Derry tomorrow!